Mordaunt, Whiteman earn titles
Jim Thorpe’s Ethan Mordaunt Ranked first at 220 pounds
Lehighton’s Chris Whiteman was the 145-pound Schuylkill League champion.
POTTSVILLE – Both top seeds.
One unbeaten. The other a defending champion.
Jim Thorpe’s Ethan Mordaunt and Lehighton’s Chris Whiteman entered the Schuylkill League Championships with plenty of buzz.
Big wins during the season and past success had the pair primed to make a statement. And in a position to carry momentum – and some bragging rights – out of the annual league tournament at Martz Hall.
Mordaunt and Whiteman delivered, producing performances befitting of their resumes, and living up to the hype that surrounded them as two of the best around.
A 7-4 decision over Upper Dauphin’s Donald Gelnett in the 220-pound final Saturday gave Mordaunt his first league title, while Whiteman knocked off Upper Dauphin’s Tyler Wright 5-2 in the 145-pound final to win his second straight title.
“Just coming in, working hard every day to win every match that I can, and it just feels good to just to know that all the work I’m putting in in the room is paying off,” said Whiteman.
The senior (20-3) reached the final with a 10-2 major decision over Pottsville’s Eric Kriner, before posting a 5-1 decision against Reese Bruner of Halifax in the semis.
Whiteman recalled his match as methodically as he executed it.
“The first period ended 0-0, and he had choice and took bottom (to start the second),” Whiteman recalled. “He got an escape, then I worked a takedown there at the end and held him down. Then I took bottom, I got my escape, then I got another takedown, and that was pretty much it.
“Just working hard, working on my shots, and working on bottom and top, holding guys down. It went pretty well.”
Mordaunt, who kept his perfect record intact with another flawless tournament, had two pins in the first period before getting the decision over Gelnett. The senior dispatched Evan Billow in 14 seconds in the quarters before topping Mahanoy’s Michael Ansbach in 1:18 to reach the final.
Gelnett, who lost 5-0 to Blue Mountain’s Nate Stine in last year’s 195-pound final, presented a tough matchup for Mordaunt. But it was one he was ready for.
“Last year, I was one point away from making the finals,” said Mordaunt, who moved to 19-0 with the win. “I felt like I should have been in there, he (Gelnett) was the runner-up last year.”
Like Whiteman, Mordaunt executed his gameplan to near perfection to leave with the title.
“More mat awareness, as my coach likes to say it,” Mordaunt said of his success. “Just knowing where I am, how much time is on the clock, what positions work for me, what don’t.”
After winning the 145-pound title by injury default in the first period last year, Whiteman proved he can go as long as he needs to get the job done.
“I feel like I have some of the best endurance in the district,” Whiteman said. “I’m ready to go for six minutes-plus, and just work. Just knowing I’m able to do it in live matches, at tournaments and in the room at practice, it helps me know that I can go the full way if I need to, and do what I want to do that whole match.”
There were intriguing matchups – and potential roadblocks – for both in their respective brackets.
“Definitely, knocking off a district championship,” Mordaunt said of his aim for this season. “In our gym, we have some banners for wrestling. A goal of mine, ever since I was a freshman, was to make every single one of them. I crossed one off last year, and I crossed another one off today. So I’ve got to keep going.”
The triumphs of Mordaunt and Whiteman highlighted a tournament that saw seven Times News area wrestlers advance to the finals.
Tamaqua’s Aaron Coccio (132), Khalid Holland (160) and Bronson Strouse (285), Jim Thorpe’s Austin Williams (182) and Lehighton’s Logan Pagotto (152) all placed second.
Coccio, a sophomore, met top seed Zach Rupp of Upper Dauphin in the final. Rupp, a senior topped his counterpart with a fall in 1:45 in the final.
“You live and you learn,” said Coccio. “(Now) I know what to expect from kids like him.
“I was just happy to make it to the finals.”
Holland, the third seed at 160, was pinned in 30 seconds by No. 1 seed Braden Goodman of Pottsville in the final.
Strouse, who won the 220-pound title a year ago and was the top seed at 285, lost a 2-1 decision to No. 2 seed Ryan Weitz of North Schuylkill in the final. Strouse edged Weitz 3-2 when Tamaqua wrestled North Schuylkill earlier in the week.
“We just have to focus on working to score more points,” Raiders’ head coach Jim McCabe said of Strouse. “He’s athletically better than the majority of the heavyweights that he wrestles. So he’s got to wrestle like a 220-pounder at heavyweight. And once we get to that point, we’ll be fine.”
Pagotto and Williams both lost close decisions in their respective matches.
Pagotto, the top seed at 152, fell 4-3 to No. 2 seed Chett Pesta of Williams Valley, while Williams, seeded second at 182, dropped a 9-7 decision to top seed Danny Lawrence of Mahanoy.
For Williams, it was his first loss of the season.
“I definitely have a lot to work on,” said Williams (18-1). “Those are the matches that I love, because it helps me see where I’m at this point in the season, and shows me what I need to work on. It just keeps me motivated.
“It helps me a lot, because I know that I’ll see him again soon. It really does help me to know how close I am to beating him.”
ON THE PODIUM … In addition to the seven finalists, a number of other area wrestlers also finished in the top six: Jim Thorpe – Gabe Heaney (113, third), Derek Hunter (285, third), William Schwartz (106, fourth), Kendall Herron (195, fourth); Lehighton – Lucas Sangiuliano (132, fourth), Richard Fronheiser (170, fourth), Lukas Ferguson (106, fifth), Steven Fritzinger (126, fifth), Alex Zeigenfuss (182, sixth); Panther Valley – Eric Moyer (160, sixth); Tamaqua – Randy Steigerwalt (126, third), Carson Krell (182, third), Nate Wickersham (170, fifth); Brandon Eberts (195, sixth).
For Moyer, the moment was especially significant.
“It’s pretty awesome since I was off for two years,” said the Panthers’ junior. “In the beginning of the season, I struggled a little bit. But I can go a full three periods now. But there were a lot of tough kids here. I just want to get better, work harder.”
BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK … Host Pottsville won the team title for the third-straight season, finishing with 202 points. Blue Mountain (195) was second, while Tamaqua (123) was third.
“I think we did very well as a team,” said McCabe. “We brought nine kids only; I was going to put some kids in the JV tournament that got canceled. So we had nine, and seven of them placed, we had six in the semis, we got half of them into the finals.
“We came up a little short in the finals, but in the long run, it solidified us in third, and our goal was to get top-three this year, and we’re in that situation. We’re steadily improving..”
Jim Thorpe (112) was fifth, while Lehighton (111) was sixth.
FOUR FOR FOUR … Upper Dauphin’s Bronson Garber (23-2) won his fourth league title Saturday, topping Pottsville’s Wiley Kahler 5-1 in the 126-pound final. The most recent wrestler to accomplish that feat was Blue Mountain’s Josh Mason, who won four in a row from 2015-18.
CROSSING OVER … Marian’s Mason Miller and Jared Spalti, wrestling for Schuylkill Haven as part of a co-op, both placed on Saturday. Miller was fourth at 220 pounds, and Spalti fifth at 285.